Work and school, school and work

When I enrolled in library school, I made some assumptions. One of those assumptions — wrong, like most of my assumptions — was that when one says that “nearly everyone in the program works full time,” one means in all sorts of jobs. I, perhaps foolishly, didn’t realize that 86% of library school students already work in libraries. (“Statistic” is a made up number not intended to bear any relationship to reality.)

So when I learned that half of the classes at school start at 4 pm, I was befuddled and bewildered. (And frustrated.) I work full-time. So do other students. So how is that so many people can make them work in their schedules?

It only took me three weeks into the second semester to realize it’s because I’m the only one who works neither in a library nor in a public school. I’m not, to be completely honest; I met another “career changer” (to use her words) who still works in her HR job full time.

This explains the scheduling problem.

There is another issue of not working in a library while in library school: graduating without practical experience. I read this post on balancing work and school eagerly, hoping it would relate to the schedule issue above, but instead it just highlighted this other problem.

I’m already an attorney; is that experience enough to be hired as a law librarian out of library school? I already work for the District; if I want to switch to archives, is that experience enough to get a job in the District’s Office of Public Records?  What if I want to work in an academic law library (currently at the top of my list)?

I’m interested to hear from other people who have been in similar situations. Did you work full-time in a field not related to your graduate studies while in graduate school? How did that affect your job search post-school?



3 Comments on “Work and school, school and work”

  1. Anne Haines says:

    I was in a similar situation in library school myself – working full-time in an office job while taking classes towards my MLS. Fortunately for me, though, I was working on-campus and was able to get a support staff position in the Libraries when I was about halfway through the MLS. I still had scheduling issues: there were a few classes I would have liked to have taken but never did because they were offered only during the daytime, and I burned most of my vacation time taking off an hour or two here and there for classes and such. And I couldn’t attend a lot of the interesting guest lectures or student group meetings that happened during my work day. But it all worked out, and I have a job I love now.

    From my limited experience, I think it would help you a lot to get at least *some* official supervised work experience in a library. If you can get an internship for academic credit as part of your degree program, that would probably work as well as anything. The scheduling thing does make it tough, especially if you don’t have enough vacation time or flex time to be able to take off a half-day every week (or whatever) for your internship. It helps a lot if your workplace is supportive of your academic work. If not… maybe it’s time to start looking for something else, even before finishing the degree?

    • dcdotnerd says:

      Anne, thanks for your thoughtful response and personal experience. I actually really love my current job (which I’ve also only had for about four months!) and there are definite benefits from keeping it–a really good salary being the most practical, and maintaining strong professional contacts being equally important–but I hear your suggestion and will take a serious look at my vacation time!!

  2. LibGirl09 says:

    I second Anne’s suggestion to at least get an internship. It is a somewhat unfortunate fact that the library science degree alone is not enough to get a librarian job anymore. Even entry level positions want the MLS plus work experience in a library setting. How much experience varies. I’ve seen some entry level librarian positions requiring one year related work experience, others requiring 2-3 years work experience in the specific library environment you are applying to.

    I also suggest searching the job boards for entry level law librarian positions and see what they are requiring. That way, you will know how to best prepare yourself. In general though, library work experience is a must.

    I do work in a public library. But I have also interned twice in medical libraries (where my interest lies) in addition to continuing to work full-time and take classes part-time. It can be very hectic trying to balance everything. But I felt like it was important for me to help boost my chances of getting into the library settings I wanted. I’m searching for jobs now, so we’ll see how it works out.

    Good luck!

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